“Pledges of Jewish Allegiance” by Rabbi David Ellenson and Rabbi Daniel Gordis

Monday, June 25, 2012

Pledges of Jewish Allegiance: Conversion, Law, and Policymaking in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Orthodox Responsa by Rabbi David Ellenson and Rabbi Daniel Gordis, has just been published by Stanford University Press.

This pioneering publication explores the unprecedented challenges to the continuity and borders of the Jewish people that have been presented by the modern world.  Since the late 1700s, when the Jewish community ceased to be a semiautonomous political unit in Western Europe and the United States and individual Jews became integrated—culturally, socially, and politically—into broader society, questions surrounding Jewish status and identity have occupied a prominent and contentious place in Jewish legal discourse. This book examines a wide array of legal opinions written by nineteenth- and twentieth-century orthodox rabbis in Europe, the United States, and Israel.  It argues that these rabbis' divergent positions—based on the same legal precedents—demonstrate that they were doing more than delivering legal opinions. Instead, they were crafting public policy for Jewish society in response to Jews' social and political interactions as equals with the non-Jewish persons in whose midst they dwelled.

Pledges of Jewish Allegiance prefaces its analysis of modern opinions with a discussion of the classical Jewish sources upon which they draw.  It employs these works as the lens through which one can understand how these traditionalist rabbis approached the task of defining the core of Jewishness—Jewish identity, status, and community—in the modern context.

Rabbi David Ellenson (pictured, left) is President and I.H. and Anna Grancel Professor of Jewish Religious Thought at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.  He received rabbinical ordination from HUC-JIR and his Ph.D. from Columbia University.  His book After Emancipation: Jewish Religious Responses to Modernity (2004), won the National Jewish Book Award.

Rabbi Daniel Gordis (pictured, right) is President of the Shalem Foundation, and Senior Fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.  He received rabbinical ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary and his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California.  His book, Saving Israel: How the Jewish People Can Win a War That May Never End (2009), won the National Jewish Book Award.


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's first institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu